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Five questions for your data centre provider

After over a decade of use, Software as a Service (SaaS) is really hitting the mainstream, with organisations increasingly considering SaaS solutions for core applications, including ERP and Financials.

The shift towards cloud computing and SaaS has prompted a huge increase in data centre providers and most SaaS vendors will leverage third party data centre resources to store clients’ data since it is the most cost effective approach. However, the difference between these organisations can be significant, not only in areas of performance and resilience but also security. To ensure the long-term safety of key financial data, organisations need to look at a variety of issues from location to physical security and compliance with standards.

Here are five questions you need to ask your Data Centre Provider before trusting financial data to the cloud:

  1. Data Location: Organisations are understandably concerned about where data is located. With cloud data storage by its very nature based anywhere in the world and some government legislation – specifically the US – permitting access to data on demand, is is vitally important for organisations to check where data is stored.
  2. Data Security: It is also important to assess the quality of security being deployed at the data centre. Check out the physical security employed on site and whether the data centre conforms to the European standard for data centres.
  3. Data Centre Processes: With Internet risks evolving on a daily basis, companies need to ascertain the quality of real time monitoring tools and intrusion detection techniques. They also need to check the robustness of back-up and failover solutions to ensure no data loss and guarantee the promised 24×7 access to information.
  4. Legal Requirements: The essence of the SaaS model is total flexibility, allowing companies to easily move between suppliers. But what happens to the data if the company unsubscribes from the service to move to a different vendor? With a legal requirement to retain financial information for at least seven years, it is essential to ensure the data centre has a process in place to comply with data compliance requirements and to find out exactly how that information will be accessed as and when required.
  5. Secondary Site: What is the data centre’s provision for disaster recovery (DR)? Many London-based data centres are having to consider the risks associated with the Olympics and Golden Jubiliee, but any data centre needs to have good DR in place to ensure continuous availability and safeguard data in the event of a problem at the primary site. Are the processes in place at the secondary site also robust?

Kevin McLoughlin
UK Country Manager Twinfield





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Social Media Marketing Initiative

Since the acquisition of Twinfield by Wolters Kluwer, my colleagues and I are regularly involved in projects and workgroups within Wolters Kluwer. And given that our approach to and handling of social media is generally the most successful within the wider organisation, we are regularly invited to give insight on the subject. Which we are more than happy to do.

So we find ourselves frequently in conversation with both business owners and employees within accounting and bookkeeping firms, to share our vision of marketing and social media. And of course, within Wolters Kluwer, the concept and purpose of social media is a topic of some interest – hence the Social Media Marketing Initiative. “Intriguing title for an event,” I thought a few months ago, when the invitation to attend this meeting appeared in my inbox.

A few months previously, I had spoken with the collegues who had initiated the social media working-group of Wolters Kluwer. In a meeting that took place in Hoevelaken, I tried to explain how Twinfield was using social media. Not as a lead generation tool, or even as a sales tool – in fact, everything butthat. We think it’s important to listen, to engage in conversation and to really be in contact with others. Whether they are clients or not. Funnily enough, many people – and companies – find that surprising.

While presenting in Munich to a group of colleagues from across Wolters Kluwer’s international offices including England, Sweden, Spain, Belgium, Germany and of course Holland, it became apparent that our approach is far from conventional. Colleagues are very interested in do’s and don’ts and keen to learn: they are hungry for the practical examples from which they can learn. Well, there are plenty of those. In Holland, KLM does some exemplary work that leaves us speechless: there’s the KLM Surprise initiative, or Tile & Inspire. All great examples that clearly demonstrate how and why social media works. Another good example: the Fanwagon from Volkswagen. And Twinfield’s own André Kwakernaat’s video on his vision for accounting in 2014also attracted a lot of positive comments – and a lot of online ‘shares’.

There was something else that I noticed with interest; the quite significant differences between the different European countries. Not just northern and southern Europe, but also Holland and Belgium, for example. Or Belgium and Germany. Countries that are neighbours; a stone’s throw from each other, but that have a completely different perspective on how information should be shared and what the purpose is for taking part in social networking. So in Germany, for example, hardly anyone uses the (business) network LinkedIn. In Germany, Xingis the network of choice. Likewise, in many countries it is rare for individuals to share personal information on the social networks. In Holland everyone does – with of course, the occasional exception. Of course, it is not my intention to suggest that Holland should be the evangelist for all things social, but it is good to see that the approach can be different, and successful.

There’s also a lot of interest in tools. Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, or yet another tool? What’s the strategy? And what’s the etiquette when it comes to sharing content generated by someone else? Good question. As far as I can see, sharing (and wanting to share) is the foundation for success on the social networks. How do you manage multiple languages in one country, such as Belgium? And how does the social world differ for a publisher of knowledge and information, in comparison to your next-door neighbour who’s just bought a piece of software?

Fear has a role to play too. “I didn’t Tweetabout the fact that I’m taking part in this,” one of my colleagues said. “Why not,” I asked. “Competition,” was the reply. “Lots of my competitors follow me and I follow them. I don’t want to give anyway anything game-changing.” Sure, that’s one argument. But we’re not talking about state secrets here; in this case, we’re debating taking part in social networking. Is it really likely that our competitors have no idea that we’re talking about this? Or – more likely yet – that they are not developing their own thought leadership in this field? It’s worth pausing to consider these things. How do you manage the competition; what do you share, give away; what can you learn? How do you manage employees and social media: if part of their job role is to Tweet and Facebook, where are the controls?

Lots of questions, many different answers.

One key take-away is this: stay innovative. Our competitors are looking at our product, our solution. Of course they are! We’re doing exactly the same. So, they make up some ground… We’ll develop our solution into something newer and better. Twinfield has grown – and become a market leader – through innovative thinking and innovative action. Because, 12 years ago, online accounting didn’t exist. And that is vision. Stay forward-thinking, keep evolving, and stay one – preferably more – step ahead of the competition.

It’s exciting to be part of the changes taking place within Wolters Kluwer. Every ‘national team’ has gone home with clear goals and the task to turn these into local action plans. I, for one, am curious; I’ll certainly have one eye on our mutual progress!

Text: Raymond Koning, online and social marketeer Twinfield International N.V.

Connect? Use Twitter or LinkedIn.

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On a journey

I’m writing this blog while on a plane and will have to post it later, as internet connectivity is unfortunately still not standardly available in the air. Together, my colleague Gerard-Jan Bentvelzen and I are travelling to London. It’s been a while since I’ve been there, but is now highly worthwhile as we are seeing the fruits of the labour of our dedicated British team as well as the results of a highly positive relationship with CCH, a subsidiary of Wolters Kluwer in the UK.

The next few days are packed full with meetings, lunches, dinners. Yet, while travelling together, you find the almost unique opportunity to properly catch up. We’ve all experienced it; you spend a day travelling with a colleague and find that you have so much more to discuss than you would do when you’re both in the office. And of course, alongside the work, there is some time a private matter or two. And this time, I will know to carry the fish (koi) particularly carefully on account of the changing water temperature.

We have a few meetings in the diary with accounting firms, some big players in the mix too. British accounting firms have taken their time to wake up to the potential of the cloud. So, every now and then, we find ourselves almost a missionary when it comes to introducing new ways of working. Last week, I received an invitation to present the closing keynote at the ICAEW’s cloud congress on 30th April. And yes, 30th April – they don’t celebrate Koninginnedag (a national holiday in the Netherlands to celebrate the birthday of the Queen) in England. Of course, it’s a great opportunity to tell our story to a large UK audience; and it’s an opportunity I’m relishing.

What strikes me is the fact that the cloud is becoming increasingly important to ERP software providers. They are busy developing their own cloud-based solutions or buying them from each other. In my opinion, that’s exactly what you should not be doing. On the Internet, it’s the best-of-breed solutions that are getting the job done; look at Salesforce.com. Salesforce has over 1500 partners who are all developing solutions based on that particular platform. So how do you make solutions for everyone and then add highly specialist functionality? It’s all about finding clever solutions and joining those together seamlessly, to couple them. At Twinfield, we’re doing that with Twinapps; at Salesforce, the apps can be found in the Appexchange. This means you can only really develop a solution to a particular level, because there is then something else in the pipeline. There’ll be a blog soon about this subject where I’ll discuss it in greater depth.

I am curious to find out how the preparations for the Olympic Games are going. In 2011 I founded my own triathlon team, inspired by the story of Evert Scheltinga, an athlete from my hometown. His dream is to participate in the triathlon at the 2016 Olympics. For Team4Talent it’s primarily about August 7th, the date for the Olympic distance triathlon. Our Danne Boterenbrood is doing everything in her might to win a place in the starting line-up for the most beautiful sporting competition in existence. She just needs one more result: a finish in the top 16 in a world cup event! The first chance is on April 15th in Sydney. Danne is evidence that sometimes you have to sacrifice everything to obtain that one goal. There are a lot of similarities between entrepreneurship and top sport. Maybe I’ll write a book on that one day, there’s enough to be said!

Text: André Kwakernaat, Founder & CEO TwinfieldAndré Kwakernaat

Founder & CEO Twinfield International

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Changing the game

Historically, accounting practices have been guarded about sharing information freely and being too open with clients in order to protect their competitive advantage, but the Internet and the increasing popularity of social media tools have changed the ground-rules.

Many other professional service organisations now provide products or services online for free, in order to show what the business can do. For example, analyst firms publish extracts of their research findings online, whilst legal firms provide top-line advice about new or forthcoming legislation. Once a new client has been reeled in, the firm can then sell them a fuller service.

Accountancy practitioners could be adopting a similar approach to showcase the wealth of information they are sitting on – and the services they can offer to organisations on the back of this. Continuing to guard their knowledge and price their services in terms of billable hours is to miss the way the service industry is moving.

Busy managers and entrepreneurs depend on rapid access to timely, relevant information to keep them sharp and ahead of the game. Just as intelligent filtering tools can help managers filter Twitter feeds and sales leads, so they should now be able to proactively drill down into their financial accounts – presented in a way they understand – to quickly spot trends, issues and new opportunities.

The Internet makes the transformation easy. By employing graphical reporting tools, accountancy firms can automate secure, online client reporting, using colour-coded dashboards to bring the figures to life for non-financial users, through illustrative graphs that highlight themes, trends and anomalies.

Social media has turned the rules of doing business upside down, collaboration and transparency brings a more trusted relationship with clients and leads to a better value proposition.

Kevin McLoughlin
UK Country Manager Twinfield